The 2017 National Stationery Show was just this last week and if you have never heard of it before it is a magical paper wonderland. It is where paper people go to geek out for days at a time and when they leave they wish that it would never have to end.
Before the big show, stationery companies send out fancy mail to the stores they would love to work with as a way too woo them into coming to to their booth, or to check out their line if they are not actually exhibiting at the show but still releasing new product. That turns this little piece of mail into a powerhouse of a design piece. It needs to be able to get across pivotal information in a way that also showcases your entire brand.
In the past when I have gone to design these mailers I have found it helpful to see what other companies have done in the past. It's good to see what kind of information should go on there so you don't leave anything out and also to gather inspiration for how you want to design your own. So here are the 3 versions of NSS mailers that I have made thus far.
The first time I made my NSS mailer it was more like an invitation to come view the debut of my line at the show. It was a beautiful card and one that I still treasure. It was a whopping 4 colors letterpress printed (or course) and the registration on it was boss.
My second mailer was what is affectionately called a “no-go” mailer. This one I made in more of a panic than anything. I had a 3 month old baby and I was scared that if I didn’t send anything that I would be forgotten and all the strides I had made would disappear. The focus on this mailer was not that I was releasing anything new–more like I was sitting this one out to take care of my growing family. I wonder what the buyers thought when they received it? Were they like “great, what am I supposed to do with this…” as they threw it into the trash? I dunno. But I made it and you can check out the picture of it.
The reason I like this one is it was one of the first times I really started to consider using my handwriting and lettering as the main focal point to my work. Much less computer type and clip art. I also added a hand painted stroke that doesn’t really apply to my current style but it was a handmade element I was playing with and thought the mailer would be a fun place to experiment.
For the mailer this year I really feel as though I brought my A-game. I took 2016 off as I was reinventing my brand so I wanted 2017 to come in strong.
I wasn't 100% sure what other companies did when they weren't going to NSS but still was planning a release, so I went looking around online and didn't really see many examples. I am sharing mine to help others looking in the future, more information is good and helping others is even better.
It's really too bad that more people don't share these because it's some of the most beautiful mail out there. I have a few thoughts about why I made it the way I did and what I was thinking about. If you are reading this is the future as you go to plan your mailer I hope this helps you.
So the big picture is I want to sell my cards in retail locations all across the country. I want to help as many people as I can form deeper bonds with their besties through the mail and help them to find the perfect cards that speak to their friendships.
Well, whomp whomp, I did not exhibit in New York this year. I am so sad about it because, like I mentioned earlier, it is a paper geek’s paradise. The best part about exhibiting at NSS is that you get to meet tons of buyers face to face and make connections and answer questions on the spot about your work that is chilling behind you on a wall.
When you don’t go to the show, and you still want to get orders during one of the busiest buying cycles of the year, you need to find a way to get your line in front of the store representative (usually the owner). You need to do this in a way that makes them want to check out your line, gives them an incentive to purchase, and helps you compete with all the other amazing talent out there that they most likely are going to meet face to face.
With these thoughts in mind I started to think about my mailer. I decided to up play my FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and just put it out there.
I used every inch of paper on this promotional mailer to pitch my new cards. When you open it up on the left I announce my HUGE release of new cards and who they are for, and on the right I had a little mystery. The envelope contains a sample, my NSS Show Special (a loose business card), a just-for-fun temporary tattoo, and my business card sealed with a custom sticker.
If the buyer decides to take the sample out there is a digital version flat printed on the promo so they still have the design visual.
On the back I share how many cards are in the new release, sharing a little detail about how the cards are made and a little note written in my handwriting.
Overall I am really happy with how this turned out. Even though it wasn’t letterpress printed I felt that the digital printer I used did a great job. The colors were clean and bright and my lettering looked really fresh and fun. (Makes me question a little bit about doing everything letterpress? Maybe there will be a digital release in my future?)
I felt like the FOMO message really resonated with buyers whether they too were going or not. It was shared a few times on Instagram and that was super exciting!
I received an order based on my mailer and that is the best response I could have hoped for! That means that it was an effective marketing piece!
Now I get to woo them with my beautiful cards once they arrive in their store. I can continue to build on that relationship now that we are–what I affectionately call–Wholesale BFF’s.
The biggest thing I have learned and that I am striving for with everything I make is that I want to make the buyer’s experience and easy as possible. I want them to get all the information they need from me so that they can place an order with out having to do a ton of work to figure out what my minimums and policies are. They need to be able to see my whole line and decide easily which cards they want to purchase and I want the ordering process to be as streamlined as possible.
These 3 things are something that I am constantly looking at and refining. With every order I get I find a new way to make the process better for the next time around. This is what growing looks like. Find the holes, patch them up, and keep making things better. I am obsessed with the buyer’s experience.
Even though this mailer has been sent and the National Stationery Show is over the results that come from this mailer don't stop here. This becomes a building block for the next contact I make. Everything builds, this was something I didn't realize when I first started out. It's not a send one thing and boom you're in and you are going to explode. It's more of a slow climb and building trust so that you can show buyers you are worth taking a chance with.
Next week I am going to share my double progress report for April and May now that things are a bit more chill after the stationery show is over and done with. If you want to notified when that post goes up you can sign up below.